Writing Chronologically: Not Always the Right Answer

A Writer’s Method

Write for You

Back in March in my Developing Characters, Part I: Character Sketches post, I briefly mentioned “there are chapters that I’ll write outside my plan.” When I said, “my plan,” I was referring to my three-act structure I went over in my two previous posts: Writer Resources (Free Tools for Writers): The Three-act Structure Spreadsheet and Writer Resources, Part II: The Three-act Structure and a Simple, Free Tool.

Yes, I fill out the entire three-act structure spreadsheet. However, that doesn’t mean I have to write every scene and chapter in the order it appears on that sheet and neither do you. In fact, there are times where I write a set-piece or climax first, and the rest of the process is learning how the characters got to that point.

Don’t Label Yourself (Unless You Want To)

For whatever reason, it seems writers like to label themselves. They’ll say, “I’m a pantser,” or “I’m a planner.” There’s little gray area in those discussions, and I’d say most writers end up in the gray areas.

Something that’s said too few times is: There is no one way to write. Write in a way that makes sense to you and works for you. Write for you. Don’t write to a label. Fixating on labels simply promotes resistance. I mentioned resistance briefly in another post: Inspiration: The Art of Procrastination.

Of course, if labeling yourself gives you focus and an objective, by all means, take that course. It’s all up to you, but know when those labels simply are getting in the way and preventing productivity.

If It Doesn’t Work, Stop

If something isn’t working, don’t do it. If it works later, fine, do it later.

For example, I’ve been working on my three-act structure for my latest novel, DEAD GODS: INHERITANCE. I have all of Act I complete, a little of Act II and Act III. I have a few of the set-pieces complete, and I know the ultimate result of the entire story. However, I sat in front of that spreadsheet for several hours and made no progress because the emotional motives of the characters was clear enough for me.

I know my characters well. However, I didn’t know the primary character intimately enough. The only way I could come to know him well enough was if I wrote his story. So, I gave up on the three-act structure and began writing the novel. Johnnie, the primary character, now has a stronger voice and direction in my mind. However, I’m still going to push forward and keep writing. When I get to the point where I feel I need to solidify the structure of the novel through my three-act structure spreadsheet, I’ll do it, but now is not the time.

So What’s the Point of This Post?

When I first started writing, I was fixated on doing everything right. I thought there must be one right answer on how to write. Writing is personal. So too is the process of writing. The bottom line is: Write in whatever way works for you because no one writer is the same as another. What works for one writer may not work for another.

I remember when I was a carpenter framing houses. I had two foremen. They had different methods of getting to the end result: a well-framed house. I learned from both those guys, but I rarely did anything the same way they did because I combined what they both taught me and made it my own.

For me, writing is the same way, and could be for you as well: Learn and make what you’ve learned your own.

My Next Post

In my next post, I want to look at a few tools that have helped me with my writing productivity. Some of those tools are simple tricks. Other tools are reasonably-priced devices that decrease distraction and fatigue.

Author: Chuck Lang

Chuck Lang is a writer of science fiction and horror. Influenced by his years as a carpenter, four years serving in the US Navy, and his fifteen years teaching literature, he holds an MFA in Writing (Fiction) from Lindenwood University. After completing his first manuscript, the supernatural horror novel DEAD GODS, in 2019, he has begun work on its two sequels, DEAD GODS: INHERITANCE and DEAD GODS: RESOLUTION. He is currently developing two additional projects, an urban fantasy horror novel and a military science fiction novel. He lives and writes near the frequently flooded Red River in Fargo, ND with his wife and two redhead sons.

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